Genetic mutation of sperm could be because of cannabis exposure, new study suggests


Cannabis and its usage has been quite frequented nowadays but did you know about the possible side effects it bestows on the health? Apart from making you lose your conscience, there is quite a wide spectrum of negative impacts, especially related to the genetic data of the sperm cells in a male individual.

A new study (R) conducted by the researchers from the Duke University Medical Centre pointed out the need for men in their child bearing age to be concerned of the amount of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) they are using. They have been found to have impacts on the sperms of an individual.

In previous studies, we have found the impacts that tobacco, pesticides and other chemical products have on the reproductive health of a male individual. The new study has further found that THC does impacts the epigenetics which end up triggering the changes in the structural and regulatory changes in the DNA structure.

The experiments were conducted on rats as well as 24 healthy male individuals to record the observations that THC has on their sperm structure and genetics. The researchers found that THC predominantly impacts the target genes in two of the major cellular pathways and imposes changes on the DNA methylation which is crucial to the normal development of the sperm cells.

The one thing that the researchers were not able to locate was whether or not the DNA changes witnessed in the users were transferred on to the children of the user. The same does require further in-depth research which might be done in the future.

Scott Kollins, Ph.D., professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke who is also the senior author of the study stated that even though we might have thought that the effects of cannabis might not be that predominant, the same might be a little different than the actual version. The impacts might not necessarily be drastic but they aren’t null as well. The cannabis usage has actually been found to have impacts on the Sperm genetics and can impact the overall DNA sequencing which is not something favourable for a male’s reproductive health.

Owing to the conclusions and results Kollins has drawn from the study, he stated that it is alarming the amount of legalized cannabis access men of child bearing age has nowadays.

The study was conducted among the subjects who were regular cannabis users, meaning that they at least smoked marijuana at least once every week for the last six months. The people were compared with subjects who didn’t smoke marijuana for the past six months and the count of usage hasn’t crossed more than 10 times in their lifetime. The sperm health of these subjects was tested out.

The authors of the study concluded stating that the more the amount of THC available in the urine of the individual, the more pronounced was the genetic changes to the sperm.

The lead author of the study Susan K. Murphy, Ph.D., associate professor and chief of the Division of Reproductive Sciences in obstetrics and gynecology at Duke stated that while the THC did impact the overall sperm health, inducing changes in the genes. The one thing they noticed was the fact that the affected genes played a crucial role in two of the major cellular pathways in the body.

On further scrutiny, it was found that while one of the pathways was associated with the overall growth of the organs to their full size, the other was associated with a numerous number of genes which were associated with the regulation of the growth and development.

The conducted study had a limited number of participants in it which could very well be a common drawback for the study. The researchers also believe that the changes and impacts could also be correlated with the other health affecting factors, much like that of nutrition, sleep, lifestyle habits etc.

The team of researchers is also on the lookout for a further in-depth study with larger groups for a complete approach to understanding the impacts THC has on the reproductive health of a male individual. The next step is to find whether or not the problems are reversed when one stops using cannabis. Apart from that, the researchers are also planning on testing the umbilical cord blood to see whether or not the epigenetic changes are carried forward to the child.

Murphy further concluded saying that it is always best to be safe than sorry. If someone is trying to conceive with their partner, it is best advised to cut down the usage of cannabis for the preceeding six months to avoid handing down any of the epigenetic changes on to the child. The study has been supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.